Satellite operator Inmarsat signed a contract to launch a new satellite next spring that will extend coverage of its Broadband Global Area Network transmission service across the Pacific Ocean.
The lack of Pacific Ocean coverage was the only missing link to Inmarsat providing a global broadband satellite solution through BGAN, which was initially adopted by news networks like CNN and Fox News Channel for international coverage and has lately been used by some U.S. call-letter stations, like WDIV Detroit, as a way to stream pictures from hard-to-reach locales.
Inmarsat signed a contract with International Launch Services to launch its third Inmarsat-4 satellite in March or April 2008 on a Proton launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome facility in Kazakhstan. Inmarsat also has an option to launch the satellite on an Atlas launch vehicle in 2009 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. -- an agreement that remains in place and that will now be regarded as a backup plan.
The Inmarsat-4 (I-4) satellites -- which are built by EADS Astrium and are among the largest and most sophisticated commercial satellites to date -- are capable of delivering advanced voice and broadband data communications to mobile users.
The I-4 F1 bird was launched in March 2005, and it has an orbital slot over the Indian Ocean at 64 degrees East; while the I-4 F2 was launched in November 2005 and provides coverage for the Americas from an orbital slot at 154 degrees West.
The I-4 F3 was initially the ground spare for the two launches in 2005, but its launch and orbital position will complete the I-4 constellation and support the global delivery of Inmarsat’s latest services.
“Our agreement with ILS has enabled us to accelerate our launch plans for the I-4 F3," said Andrew Sukawaty, CEO and chairman of Inmarsat, in a statement. "The third satellite will provide global coverage for our existing BGAN service and will benefit our new broadband maritime and aeronautical services, as well as our global satellite phone service."